The Sydney Southeast Asia Centre at the University of Sydney is helping 26 Indonesian NGO leaders fighting for women's rights and to stop violence against women in Asia.
As millions of women all over the world were taking to the streets last week in marches to promote human rights and gender equality following US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, 26 emerging female NGO leaders from Indonesia were on their way to Sydney to take their own next steps in the fight for women’s rights.
The Sydney Southeast Asia Centre at the University of Sydney is currently hosting the 26 women for a two-week course to empower Indonesian women. Funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and managed by Australia Awards in Indonesia, the course is aimed at equipping participants with real-world management, communication and organisational skills that they can use everyday in their leadership roles.
We need a strong women’s movement fighting for our rights, and for human rights in general, as that is the only way to increase democracy at home.
As the women themselves attest, this knowledge is urgently needed to address the problems at home – from violence against women, to a lack of access to reproductive health care, to the prevalence of childhood marriage, and more.
“In our quest to support women and fight for women’s rights back home, we are facing a lot of challenges, which is why outside support is so important for us,” said Yanti, who is a division coordinator with Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence against Women. “This course is a great opportunity to learn from others and [it] gives me a lot of hope.”
“We need a strong women’s movement fighting for our rights, and for human rights in general, as that is the only way to increase democracy at home,” said Nani, who works for Aisyiyah, a Muslim women rights organisation in South Sulawesi. “Hopefully, I can take the knowledge I gain here and the spirit of the course home with me and improve the way we work on a daily basis”.
Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, Professor Michele Ford, said the program also provides the participants with a unique opportunity to learn as a group and be inspired by each other.
“As infrastructure remains a problem – especially in rural areas – organising training and gaining knowledge can become difficult for even the most dedicated,” she said. “An important part of the course is helping participants build their networks so that they can support each other across regional and cultural boundaries.”
During the course, the participants will engage in activities designed to develop practical skills in public speaking, engaging with government, project management, and more. They will also visit non-government organisations focusing on female empowerment including Asian Women at Work, Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association and the National Council of Women of New South Wales.
At the end of the two weeks the participants will put theory into practice by pitching projects to donors, international NGOs, as well as staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the University of Sydney.
“This will hopefully help us to influence our own government back home, which we really need to do if we want more rights and better living conditions for women in Indonesia,” said Nani.